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Healthy chips in the making

Pass the chips, nix the salt.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2012 01:59 IST

Pass the chips, nix the salt. In the ongoing crusade to reduce sodium levels in food, British scientists are working on a way to create a potato chip that releases the flavour of salt that snackers crave before it goes down the hatch.

In a study published in Food & Function last week, researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK measured how sodium is released in the mouth from potato chips and found that the tongue registered saltiness about 20 to 30 seconds after chewing begins — more often than not, long after the chip has been swallowed.

The finding will help researchers develop a highly engineered breed of potato chip, they said, and one that aims to accelerate the delivery of salt to the tongue before it’s chewed up and swallowed, reported February 21.

To conduct the test, a consumer panel of food tasters was instructed to chew potato chips a set number of times and hold them in their mouth for 60 seconds, during which time sodium release was measured. At 20 seconds, researchers detected a peak in saliva salt concentration.

Scientists from Spain have also found a way to reduce the amount of salt in already desalted cod by 50% without sacrificing the flavour and textural properties of preserved fish — a process that involved replacing part of the sodium with potassium.

Reducing salt in prepared foods and in Western diets has become a priority for public health authorities, with an aging baby boomer population and concerns of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Last year, in partnership with major food manufacturers across the UK, the British government launched a Public Health Responsibility Deal in which it secured pledges from brands like Heinz to reduce the sodium levels in their food products.

First Published: Feb 24, 2012 18:10 IST